Young people in conflict with the law need to understand that it is unacceptable to engage in criminal activity, says Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.
The Deputy Minister made the remarks on Friday while addressing a group of children in conflict with the law at the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Secure Centre in Pretoria.
The event was part of the department’s Youth Month celebrations.
Bogopane-Zulu said at some stage, the experiences of the offenders must make sure that the numbers at the secure facilities reduce “until these centres become something else”.
“You must remember that life is what you make it to be. So, if you guys are going to think that these child and care workers, the psychologist and social workers that work in these facilities look after you on our behalf, I can tell you now; they cry every day when they look at you,” she said.
“They die inside every time the police van stops to drop one of you off here because they have left somebody like you at home. It’s not an easy job.”
She said although she did not like the centres programme, this did not mean she did not care about children in conflict with the law.
“I love you guys, and you must know that. I have your back but I don’t like it when a child, who is supposed to be innocent, who is supposed to be in school, gets closed up in these high walls and becomes an inmate that Social Development must look after. But I know that life sucks and stuff happens. I also know that you sometimes get caught up in the wrong group at the wrong time,” she said.
The Deputy Minister said Youth Month usually comes and goes without the young behind high walls being heard. It was for this reason the department this year decided to celebrate the day at the centre.
The secure centres are for children who are in conflict with the law awaiting trial or sentencing, and children who are sentenced.
The department has 31 Secure Care Centres around the country with a bed space capacity of 2 296.
In a statement, the department said the programme is aimed at ensuring that despite the nature of the offences committed, young offenders still remain children in the eyes of the law.
In the 2018/19 financial year, the Department of Social Development assessed 23 918 child offenders, 10 515 were diverted and 3 039 were placed under home-based supervision. The department said 132 of these children were under the age of 10 year. – SAnews.gov.za